Tata reinvigorating growth with three trucks suited for Africa conditions
Tata Trucks has launched its Ultra range in SA to compete in the medium commercial vehicle segment, writes Lerato Matebese
Tata Trucks SA unveiled the latest additions to its truck range in the form of the Ultra line-up at the Futuroad Expo in Johannesburg.
The latest models, which will be built at the company’s Rosslyn plant in Tshwane, will comprise three model derivatives. These are the Ultra 814 (4.5T), Ultra 1014 (5.5T) and Ultra 1418 (7.5T) with the figure in brackets denoting the maximum tonnage that the respective models are rated to carry.
"The Tata Ultra range is a result of extensive feedback from customers in the South African market and we are proud to introduce this pioneering range of trucks here in SA. The Tata Ultra 814 is the first variant to be launched in SA and we are looking forward to launching the Ultra 1014 and the AMT (automated manual transmission) versions of both models in the New Year," says Rudrarup Maitra, vice-president, commercial vehicles, international business.
The models are said to cater for the small to medium-size business owner looking for a capable, reliable, efficient and, most importantly, cost-effective business vehicle. All models are powered by a 3.0l, common-rail diesel engine with 103kW at 2,600r/min and 390Nm available between 1,400 and 2,600r/min. All models come with a six-speed manual transmission for now.
According to the company, one of the most versatile aspects of the Ultra range is that it is available in two deck lengths — 4.3m and 5.2m — to suit various business needs. The new Ultra range will essentially sit just above the Prima range of trucks, which was launched in 2014.
We also had the opportunity to sit down with a senior executive of Tata Trucks during the launch event to find out more about the outfit’s future plans.
Len Brand, executive director and head of distribution, has extensive experience in the industry as he also counts formerly being the MD of John Deere SA. He said the company is going through a revamping of its entire product range.
The company moved 900 units in 2016, which is decidedly below par of most competitors, but Brand says that the plan is to have gradual growth and he said the company’s strategy of achieving 1,500 units in 2017 is firmly on course.
Brand said the company’s range of trucks are built for rugged, African conditions and these have proven to be reliable and, as a result, there has been an uptake in the number of repeat buyers in recent times. One of the biggest challenges, said Brand, is the small dealer footprint of only 18 dealers across the country. To counter this deficiency the company has resorted to investing its own resources towards expanding its dealer footprint.
In addition, the company is also planning to launch the Daewoo Trucks and Buses brand, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tata Group. This will drive growth in both the extra heavy commercial vehicle segment and the bus segment.
While the company was not at liberty to expand on the plans in this regard, this will without doubt expand the group’s market share in the local context.
With Tata Trucks having a presence in SA since 1997 — having started its trade on the continent in Zambia in 1977 — the company says it will continue to invest both in SA and the rest of the continent, which bodes well for the industry.